Socialist Worker

Western leaders panic at their plight in Afghanistan

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2116

The occupation of Afghanistan has entered a new and deeper crisis. A rising number of sophisticated attacks on foreign troops, combined with a growing rebellion in Pakistan and Russia's crushing of Nato ally Georgia, have raised the prospect that the occupation is heading for defeat.

Now Afghan insurgents are tightening their grip on the capital of Kabul. The recent attack on French troops in the Uzbin Valley east of the city has sent shockwaves through the Western military alliance that runs the occupation.

Nato admits that Afghan insurgents now control the routes around Kabul, leaving it isolated and under siege.

Last week rebels struck the city's airport with rockets, raising fears that the Taliban and its allies were poised to launch a full-scale assault on the city.

As Afghanistan is landlocked, Nato relies on supply routes from Pakistan that run through troubled tribal areas on the border.

Attacks on convoys passing through the strategically vital Khyber Pass forced Nato to beg countries allied to Russia, which are to the north of Afghanistan, to open new supply routes.

But the war between Russia and Georgia has thrown that into question. The defeat of Georgia, and the aggressive Nato expansion into former Soviet states bordering Russia has meant problems for the US's plans.


A succession of Nato leaders have visited Afghanistan in an attempt to contain the growing crisis. Gordon Brown said he was 'utterly resolute' in his support for the occupation and pledged an additional 4,500 troops.

Nato leaders have been pressing Pakistan to send more troops into the tribal region on the border with Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Nato forces are being drawn deeper into Pakistan. Nato attacks on so-called 'insurgent safe havens' have triggered a rebellion.

Last week rebels launched deadly suicide attacks on an arms factory in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, as retaliation after a Nato air strike on a region near the Khyber pass.

Nato commanders claim that the only hope of turning the tide of the war is to pour more soldiers into Afghanistan.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy rushed to Afghanistan in an attempt to head off mounting disquiet over an ambush that killed ten French soldiers.

His decision to send more troops has created growing opposition to the war in France.

A recent poll by the Le Parisien newspaper found that 55 percent of people want France to pull their troops out, as against 36 percent who support the occupation.

The ambush of French troops, two hours from Kabul, came several weeks after insurgents overran a US outpost in the east of the country killing nine troops. US soldiers abandoned the base a few days later.

The latest deadly attack on Nato troops marks the bloodiest period of the seven year occupation. Some 140 foreign soldiers have been killed since May.

The British military is attempting to justify a new surge of troops by claiming it is a sign that the occupation is winning.


Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the British commander in the Helmand province, claims, 'One of the characteristics of counter-insurgency, unlike conventional war, is the more successful you are in the short term, the more troops you require.

'The more ground and the more people you become responsible for, the more troops you need.' He expects the number of British troops in Afghanistan to rise to 12,000.

Meanwhile, general James Conway, the top US Marine commander, told Newsweek magazine that a small detachment of US Marines in the western province of Herat have to rely on villagers for medical aid.

The troops, who are supposed to patrol an area of 16,000 square miles, are even growing beards to try to blend in with locals.

During a visit to the isolated outpost, Conway said that he wants the Pentagon to transfer troops from the Anbar province in Iraq to make up the shortfall in western Afghanistan.

But the US military fears that it will sacrifice the 'progress' made in Iraq in order to douse the fires in Afghanistan.

At the heart of the occupation's crisis is that the foreign troops are widely despised and Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government has little writ over the country.

Sending more troops will not solve the fundamental problem – that the majority of Afghans want foreign troops to leave.

In the latest horrific incident Nato warplanes attacked a village in the west of the country killing up to 89 people.

Angry survivors pelted Afghan soldiers with stones as they attempted to bring aid to the devastated village.

The Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies summed up the new US mood of despondency. Its latest report concludes, 'The US is now losing the war against the Taliban.'

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